Massachusetts Maternity Leave

Massachusetts Maternity Leave: Everything Expectant Parents Need to Know About the New Paid Family Leave Law

Massachusetts finally has paid family and maternity leave. This state is so determined to pass some form of paid leave, enough signatures were collected for the measure to be on the ballot. The legislature acted instead of waiting for the electorate’s vote, as polling indicated that paid family leave would win. Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act on June 28, 2018.

Massachusetts Maternity Leave & PFML

Although the law was effective on January 1, 2019, funding did not begin until July 2019, and benefits started Jan. 1, 2021. However, some caregiving leave will not be available until July 20,2021. This article will provide all the information you need about the MA PFML and when it will be implemented.

How many weeks of paid maternity leave do I get in Massachusetts?

For dads and moms, the MA PFML allows for up to 12 weeks of family leave paid to bond with a child. The bill also offers paid family leave for any other life events. It provides up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to bond with a new child (up to 26 weeks for those with health conditions resulting from active duty), and 20 weeks to care for yourself. You can care for yourself if you have medical conditions such as pregnancy, birth, or postpartum recovery. However, the annual leave cap is 26 weeks.

You should also know that there is a one week waiting period before the leave takes effect. During this time the employer will not pay the employee and the employee would need to use other benefits such as vacation or sick time to be paid.

Who qualifies for paid family leave?

Massachusetts residents are eligible for paid family leave. This includes people who commute to Massachusetts from other states. They must work for an employer that contributes to the unemployment insurance fund. Most employers do. Rebecca Pontikes, a Massachusetts lawyer who is specialized in workplace discrimination and pregnancy, states that there are few exceptions to this rule, such as work/study programs or religious organizations. If you’re a Massachusetts resident working in another state you can’t receive benefits because your employer doesn’t contribute to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

There is also a minimum income requirement in which you should have earned at least $4,700 in the past 12 months. Self-employed people must work at least four consecutive quarters to be eligible for the benefit. In addition, they will need to continue to contribute to the system for three more years. However, they will be eligible for leave during this three-year period.

How much will I be paid?

Massachusetts employees are entitled to 80% of their weekly average wages while on leave. This is up to one-half the state’s current average weekly wage of $1,431.66, which 50% of is $715.83. An employee who earns an average of $715.83 per week will receive half of their weekly average wages, plus the $715.83. The total is capped at $850 per week. 

This means that those earning $715.83 per week will receive 80% of their weekly wages. For earnings over $715.83 per week will be compensated with additional wages at 50% capped at $850.

The cap is adjusted each year in line with changes in the state’s average weekly wages to equal 64% of the state’s average weekly income, It is currently $850. The benefit will be adjusted if the average weekly wage in the state rises.

The benefit amount will be adjusted if you are taking part-time leave, such as two days per week or twenty hours per week.

Can I take paid family leave for something other than a new baby?

Yes, the law provides for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to family members with serious health conditions. These benefits will go into effect July 1, 2021. You can also receive up to 26 weeks paid family leave for family members whose serious medical condition was caused by active duty military service. For your own serious condition, you can get up to 20 weeks paid medical leave. You can only take 26 weeks of paid medical leave in one benefit year. This includes any qualifying events. You are still restricted to 26 weeks if you have a baby or care for an injured military member.

Can I take more than 12 weeks off?

12 weeks is the maximum amount of paid family leave you can take, unless you are taking care of yourself or an injured military member. Your employer can decide to pay additional time or make additional payments. The state law is concurrent with the national Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of job protection leave.

MA PFML is more comprehensive than FMLA. Only 60% of American workers are eligible for FMLA, and MA PFML may be able to cover you in circumstances where FMLA would not apply. For example, FMLA requires that you have worked for the same employer for a year.

Do I need to use all my leave at once?

You can either use your leave periodically or all at once. The cap is for the whole year, not a 12 month period.

What about my spouse?

Your spouse will be eligible if she or he meets the requirements of the law. However, one spouse’s eligibility doesn’t guarantee the other.

What if I foster, adopt or use a surrogate? Are those qualifying events?

Yes, a new child definition includes adoption, foster care, and birth. A child who “arrives” by any other means than childbirth will be covered, even if the child is not officially adopted.

I need to take time off to take care of my family. Which family members are included?

The family members covered are a sibling, spouse, domestic partner and child; a parent, parent of an employee; a person who was like a parent to the employee; a grandchild or grandparent of the employee.

Massachusetts provides a wide definition of what is considered a child. It could be biological, adopted, foster, or stepchild, or a child to which the employee acts as a parent while the child was minor.

How is the benefit paid for?

Funding methods are divided between employers and employees. It varies slightly for family leave than for medical leave.

Like an insurance policy, employees pay a premium. The cost can be split between the employers and employees. Employers can ask employees to pay 100% of the premium, which is deducted from every paycheck. However, for family leave, employers must pay at least 60% of the premium cost.

Massachusetts employees will have paid time off to have a baby, to recover from illness, or to care for a loved one. It costs less than a single Starbucks coffee per week.

Employers who have fewer than 25 employees on their payroll do not need to pay the employer’s portion of premiums, as long as less than half of their workforce are self-employed. Individuals who are self-employed must pay 100% of the premiums.

If my company pays for some portion of leave, can I combine it with MA PFML to receive 100 percent of my salary?

Your employer can decide. Massachusetts pays the first part of paid leave, but employers have the option to “top off” the state’s paid leave option by offering additional time and salary. Employers do not have to offer additional benefits, but any company-specific benefits will be added to the state’s paid leave program.

Farnitano states that his coalition expects companies to use the state benefit to be a baseline but then offer benefits such as 100% income reimbursement for a few weeks or the option of extending the time out of the office. He said that they might offer it for a longer time now that it is more affordable.

If my employer currently offers six weeks of paid leave, and Massachusetts now offers 12, can I combine the two?

TThe baseline is the state plan. Employers should clarify whether the paid leave benefit is additional to MA FPML. Employers may offer additional benefits or full salaries, but it would be necessary to specify that this is an additional benefit and not a substitute for the state option.

Is the leave pay taxed?

Tax issues were not addressed in the paid leave law. Farnitano says that wage replacement payments (unemployment insurance, for example) are generally taxable. Therefore, the federal and state taxing authorities treated parental and family benefits as income taxable. However, benefits such as temporary disability insurance or insurance for medical leave are not taxable if the worker either pays the premiums herself or pays income tax on them.

What do I have to do to get the money? How am I paid?

Visit the Department of Family and Medical Leave website to access online tools that will determine eligibility, and for opting in and signing up.

You may also check the state’s unemployment insurance page to check the eligibility requirements.

Are there any monetary caps on the benefit annually or during one’s lifetime?

There is no lifetime limit, the annual cap for this 26 weeks at $850/week.

Do I still receive my benefits while I’m out?

Similar to FMLA, you can take time off, and your job, and benefits, are protected.

Is my job protected while I’m on leave?

Yes, employees are protected for 6 months from any unlawful retaliation if they use MA PFML during their return to work after such leave. There is no limit on job protection, unlike FMLA. It does not depend on how large the employer’s workforce is. This means that your job is protected regardless of whether your company employs 20 or 20,000 people.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

You can find more information at the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave website.

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